This post is about how to make the best of volatile fuel prices and put more money in your pocket each month.

I see it all the time. Fuel prices at the pump jump 30 cents in a day and people start their bellyaching. Facebook explodes with posts about how people are being taken advantage of, ripped off, and held hostage by a seemingly unwarranted surge in gas prices. Oil prices are very complex, and there are a lot of factors that affect the price at the pump.

Very interesting news article this morning in a UK newspaper. It helps explain a bit about how and why oil fluctuates so much. It would also help to read up on the New York Mercantile Exchange (NYMEX) and how it works. I’m here today to tell you how to minimize the impact to your personal finances.

First of all we must admit that the cost per gallon is only half the reason our monthly fuel bills are so high. We don’t have any control over the price at the pump, so let’s stop grumbling about it. Let’s talk about what you can control, and that is the amount of fuel you need to purchase each month, and how we can reduce this factor.

First of all, look at what you are driving. If it is a monster truck, or something that gets very poor fuel mileage you may want to consider buying something more efficient. We don’t need 4WD 365 days a year. If you get 10 mpg in your current vehicle, you can cut your annual fuel bill in half by just driving a vehicle that gets 20 mpg. You can cut it by 66% if you can get a car that gets 30 mpg! There are many cars out there that get 40+ mpg. You would only spend 25% of what you are now spending! That is like $4 gas suddenly dropping to only $1 per gallon! Quite a significant improvement.

Secondly, let’s look at our driving habits. Do you warm up your vehicle for 15-20 min every day before you get into it? This vehicle is getting 0 mpg while sitting in your driveway. A car only needs to run for a minute or two before you start to drive it. It will warm up rather quickly once you get moving and working the engine.

Hard acceleration and braking are wasting fuel too. Try to accelerate more smoothly and coast a while before slowing down. You don’t always need to go hard on the brakes after a rapid acceleration. You not only save fuel this way, but brakes and tires too!

Lastly, consider investing in energy companies. Open an E*Trade account and take some of that money you’re saving and buy some stock in Exxon (XOM), Chevron (CVX) or some other oil or natural gas giant. Instead of complaining about the mega profits these giants reap every year, why not join in the harvest! You certainly can’t beat ’em, so why not join ’em?

It all boils down to being responsible for yourself and your finances. Make smart buying decisions, conserve where you can, and invest in profitable companies. You personally have more control over your fuel budget than the oil giants. Stop expecting the world to change just for you. Adapt to the changes around you and take care of yourself!

The following is another bit of advice I found. I did not write it, but it still holds true. I wish I could credit the author, but he/she was not cited.

If you want to reduce your stress, then be early. If you want to impress your boss, coach, or teacher, then be early. Being late shows a lack of respect for whomever you’re dealing with. I am not talking about going to a party and being the first one there. We’ll have to deal with social etiquette another time. I am talking about virtually everything else. Staying ahead of the game, ahead of the deadline, ahead of when you have to be somewhere, and ahead of when the project is due will forever endear you to those who are expecting anything on-time. Being early shows others you are motivated, organized, and disciplined. Be known as the one they can always count on to be early, prepared, and excited to be there and you will have everyone wanting you on their team. True leaders don’t keep people waiting.

If you always do what you’ve always done,

you’ll always get what you’ve always got.

This is not perfect English, but it holds true nonetheless. It is my belief that you should never get in a rut in your life. Ruts can become deep over time, and the deeper the rut you are in, the harder it is to escape. How can you avoid getting in a rut? Why don’t you try to learn something new, or take up a new hobby?

I took up photography about 20 years ago, and switched to digital in 2005. This may sound like I am in a rut, but it is not the case. Although photography has been the common theme over the past 20 years, I have been getting in deeper and learning new techniques almost nonstop since I have taken up the hobby. The first few years were fairly dull. I had a point and shoot 110 film camera and didn’t do much other than point……and…….shoot. Once I mastered (and I use the term rather loosely) that, I wanted to learn more. I bought a film SLR and experimented with manual exposure and aperture settings. I had taken classes on composition and film development. I was growing my knowledge of the hobby.

In 2005 I switched to digital and bought my first DSLR. I had previously become very familiar with composition, exposure, and aperture, but now I could expand on that. I now had the ability to adjust color temperature and ISO on a frame by frame basis. Then came post processing…. I had started to edit my photos in Photoshop! This hobby is ever changing, and there are new techniques that are developed almost daily!

This is just a personal example I wanted to share with you. There are many other hobbies that can become very interesting, and not grow stagnant over time.

New skills are important too! Whether it be work related, or a marketable skill that you can sell and use to enhance a résumé, I highly recommend branching out of your comfort zone and trying something new. Versatility and adaptability are two very important components of success, and are easy to get started on. Successful people are ahead of the curve when it comes to competing for a new position, attracting new customers, or just staying up on technology.

When you stop learning, you stop growing. Find something you like, or take a chance on something totally new. I guarantee it will keep you sharp and possibly change your life!

Note: These are not my words. I read this yesterday and I felt I must share it with you. I agree with every word in the passage.

If you want to be successful, then you have to hang out with successful people. Watch what they do and how they work at their chosen profession. Unconsciously, you will start adapting to these behaviors, habits, attitudes, and opinions of these successful individuals.

Dr. David McClelland of Harvard found after twenty-five years of research, that the choice of a negative-reference group is enough to condemn a person to failure and underachievement in life.

The good doctor simply means, if you hang out with people who are going nowhere in their lives, then you will be headed in that same direction.

If you can’t be around successful people, then read as many biographies/autobiographies as you can about successful people. Personally, I would rather be by myself than with people who are headed nowhere. What will you choose?

Words are very powerful. What one says and how one says it is often what permanently sets a first impressions in someone’s mind. People don’t often realize that they are being judged and evaluated on the words that flow from their lips.  Proper use of your vocabulary is crucial in making a good impression.

Foul language is a big no-no when you are trying to make good impression and it has no place in the workplace. It is possible you will offend someone who is within earshot of your voice, and you don’t always know who is around you. Believe me, the people will be more impressed with your communication skills than they will be with your colorful language.

Offensive and prejudicial statements are also prohibited if you want to achieve success. Considering the diverse society we live in, disparaging comments of any type could bring catastrophic results. Political correctness is of utmost importance when trying to make a good impression. You often don’t know the religious, or political views of those you are speaking to. You also do not know their sexual orientation, or racial makeup of their family tree.  Think things through before you open your mouth.

Don’t talk over your own head, and speak within your comfort level  You don’t always need to be a master of our language to be an effective communicator.  Trying to insert a big fancy new word into your conversation can be disastrous if you don’t use it correctly.

Success, as I have said before, is often dependent on the help you get from others, and if you don’t win them over with that first impression, you may not get another chance.

Why just do what you need to do to get by in life?  Doing the bare minimum never made anyone a shooting star in life.  Why not exceed expectations?

Those who consistently exceed others expectations get noticed.  Why do you want to get noticed?  To succeed!  You are reading this blog because you want to be successful, or at least know how to be successful.  Those who go the extra mile to impress others with their hard work and dedication, are the ones who are thought of when perks and promotions are offered.  Being an overachiever is a must!

You must, in some way, differentiate yourself from the crowd.  The average person is just that, average.  They fall somewhere between the overachiever and the underachiever.  Those who get noticed are found at both ends of the spectrum here.  You definitely don’t want to get noticed for being an underachiever!

One does not need to be a card-carrying Mensa member to be successful.  There are many ways to get people’s attention, and hard work, professionalism and dedication are just a few.

Exceed expectations and great things will happen!

Just Try

“That’ll never work…” “I can’t make that happen…” I hear it every day.  People conceding defeat before they even attempt to tackle the problem, or perceived problem.  More often than not, by the end of the day the problem has been tackled and solved. I think it is truly amazing what a person can achieve if they actually try.  Meeting a challenge head on and giving every effort to do the best you possibly can is what drives progress. What if Ben Franklin never tried to harness electricity? What if Thomas Edison didn’t think a light bulb would ever work?  How would we have made the progress we have over the last 200 years? Some people are persistently pessimistic.  Pessimism is very contagious. When one person makes a negative comment about their ability to meet a goal, the guy right next to him almost automatically has to one-up him.  “You think you’ve got it bad, listen to this…” Peer pressure seems to prohibit someone from even trying at all.  Many people are afraid to put forth additional effort in front of their peers for fear that they will be seen as someone who is warming up to management. I look at it as a challenge to see how well I can do.  I try to outperform and beat expectations by management.  Each of us has an ability deep down inside to adapt to any situation and achieve success.  It allows us to use critical thinking to solve any problem we may encounter. Next time a difficult situation presents itself and before you throw up your arms in defeat….just try.

Follow the Rules

No matter where you go in life, there are rules.  When you drive, you follow a certain set of rules.  When you play a game or sport, there are rules to follow.  When you are out in public interacting with society, there are rules to follow.  Each of these examples has some form of consequence for not following the rules.  Not following the rules while driving can get you a ticket, or worse.  In games or sports, you are penalized which gives your opponent some sort of advantage. When you are in public, inappropriate behavior can get you arrested.

There are also rules at work.  These rules can be federal regulations, codes of conduct, or simply company policy.  Depending on the type of rule or the number of infractions, it is possible to be punished up to, and including dismissal.  Yet, there are still those who blatantly disregard the rules in the workplace. Why would anyone want to break the rules at work?  Your job is what pays for your home, food, clothing, car, and entertainment.  I can’t understand why someone would want to put all that in jeopardy just because they don’t want to follow a certain rule, or set of rules.

Rules are set by the employer for several reasons.  Some rules are to maximize efficiencies, and others are to protect your safety and well-being.  There are also rules that dictate what is best for the overall operation of the company.  Rules are what keep the order in the workplace.  By following the rules you are showing your employer, fellow workers, and the public that you value their interests.  When you break the rules additional expenses are incurred, someone gets hurt, or you project a bad image to the public that reflects back on your company.

Let’s think about this another way.  Your company has many rules, and they expect you to follow all of them.  To make the math easy to do in our heads, let’s say they pay you ten dollars per hour.  You only feel like following 75% of the rules your company has, because you think the other 25% are silly or inconvenient. How would you feel when payday arrived to find that the company only paid you $7.50 per hour?  You would probably feel cheated wouldn’t you?  How do you think your employer feels when he still pays you your full wage, but you fail to do the complete job?

People notice who the dependable ones are in their lives.  You build a reputation over many years, and this reputation follows you everywhere.  Your friends notice and so does your employer.  Success is achieved by those who have a higher level of personal and professional ethics in their lives.  If you want to succeed in your life, then follow the rules!

If you want to succeed in life you need as many connections as you can get.  The more the better I would say.  The fact is, personal and business connections make success much more attainable.  By closing out certain people or groups you eliminate them, and their connections, from participating in your success.

I can’t begin to count the number of times I’ve heard someone say that people in positions of authority are not as smart as they are. Yet, the person with the criticism is usually at the bottom (or close to it) of the totem pole.  The person is usually in a group of their peers criticizing someone who has authority over the group.  Whether or not this is consciously realized, this is an effort to convince the others in the group that he is somehow superior to the authority figure, and also the rest of the group.  He is, in a sense, excluding himself from the person or group of authority.

When you distinguish between “us” and “them”, you draw boundaries around yourself.  The person of authority has more information available to him or her, and truly has the “big picture” when they make decisions or set policy.  The subordinate is not privy to the same information, and the decisions the authority figure makes often seem irrational.

Instead of criticizing, talk to the person one on one.  Ask them why they do what they do.  You might be surprised to find that they may offer to explain their reasoning to you.  Maybe they have a bit of information that you do not have, and once you have that information, you will see it their way. There is also the possibility that the authority figure may ask for your input.  You may have an opportunity to offer your perspective on an issue.  A perspective the boss may not have considered. If you act professional and respectful the boss will remember it.  This could be very beneficial to you in the future. Don’t always expect “instant gratification” from these people.  They form opinions of others over time, and not on the spur of the moment.

Success to many means climbing the ladder, and to do that you will need people above you on that ladder to help pull you up.  You may find out that those authority figures aren’t as dumb as you think they are.  They are just people like you are and they make good friends.

Let’s face it, most people out there don’t like change. They get comfortable with the way things are and agitated when someone suggests a different way of doing things. Change is inevitable,and although most people know this, few embrace it.  After all, if successful people didn’t look for a better way of doing things, we would still be living in caves, wearing animal skin, and be without all the modern conveniences we have today.

Think about where we would all be if it weren’t for a few of these changes in life. Henry Ford brought us the first assembly line, and the ability to make many identical items quickly.  Thomas Edison gave us the light bulb.  Bill Gates and Steve Jobs put the computer into everyone’s home.

Ideally, change means to improve upon a method of doing something.  Most of the time it works, but occasionally it doesn’t.  You have to be willing to give the change an honest chance to prove itself.  In business and industry the change has usually been tested prior to implementation. The creators of the change have good reason to believe that the change will be an improvement over the old way of doing things.  Changes in business and industry are usually expensive to implement, so the decision to change is not made lightly. Change in business is in an effort to stay ahead of the competition, and operate more efficiently, and ultimately have an edge over your competitors.  It is only a matter of time before the competitor makes a change to either catch up, or surpass your efforts.  Business leaders are always thinking up new ideas and occasionally a major change to their business model.  If you are not moving forward, you’re going to be passed up.

Let’s talk about change in your personal life.  In order to accept change in your professional life, it is good to become accustomed to change in your personal life. Once you have accepted change as a fact of life, it is just a matter of adapting to each new method as it comes along.  Do you think you are able to deal with change?  Let’s ask ourselves a few questions about change.

Does your music collection dominate any one era or decade?  Do you have more music from the 70’s,  80’s, 90’s or 2000’s? If your music collection stopped growing when Lynard Skinnard was new, you may not be as accepting of change as you think.  Sure, music from these era’s is great, but music from later decades is just as good.  When your music collection stopped growing, so did you as a person.  I am not saying you shouldn’t enjoy some Zeppelin, Floyd, or Jethro Tull.  I am just suggesting you throw some Pearl Jam, Nickelback, and Buck Cherry into the mix.  Grow and change your collection.

Do you still have that awesome mullet that the ladies just loved back in the day?  Get rid of it!!  If you like long hair, there are certainly some great new styles for long hair.  Change it up a bit!  That awesome 80’s haircut is a visual sign that you are not accepting of change.  Someone does not even have to meet you to know this about you, it is evident from across the room. Take a look at the hero’s and role models you had when that haircut was popular.  Billy Ray Cyrus no longer has that “business in the front, party in the back” mullet that made him famous.  He’s still got long hair, but it changes with the times. The guys from Poison have toned it down a bit.  No longer do they sport the styles they did from back in their heyday.  Take a risk and do something different next time you are in the chair.  It will send a message to others that you are adaptable, and open to change.

Do you still have those old concert shirts from high school?  Do you still wear your Robert Plant hip huggers or bell bottoms?  Get rid of that stuff!  Go buy yourself a new shirt, or new pair of pants.  Keep up with the latest styles.  Your outward appearance is a visual cue to others that you either are, or are not able to embrace change.  This whole blog is about being successful.  How many successful people do you know who are stuck in an era from days gone by?  The next time you go shopping (and it should be soon) make an effort to notice the other shoppers around you.  Can you tell the successful ones from the ones who are just getting by?  What sets these people apart from the other shoppers?  Make a note of these visual cues and try to adapt some of them to your lifestyle.

Will a new haircut, or a new shirt make me successful?  Of course not.  Success is a life long culmination of many things. Your efforts over the long run will make a significant difference in the level of success in your life.  Like I said before, success means different things to different people.  No matter what your definition is, change should be a big part of it.

Accept, pursue, and embrace change.  It will make all the difference in the world.